The bullpup himself.

Bullpup Guns

Devoted to the bullpup firearms of the world

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Things to know about bullpup guns.

What is a bullpup firearm?

The essential feature of a bullpup design is that the receiver is located in the stock. The upshot of that is, of course, that the trigger is located in front of the receiver.

Why do we call them bullpups?

As far as I can find out, nobody knows! There's a general sort of oral tradition that the short and sort of squatty shape that is kind of characteristic of bullpup guns reminded somebody of a bulldog, but as far as I know there's no documentation of that anywhere. However, just because I think the idea is fun, I've made the emblem of this site the dogged little guy you see in the upper left-hand corner.

What are the advantages the bullpup design?

The main advantage to a bullpup design is that you can have a much shorter weapon for the same barrel length. For example, the MSAR STG-556 features a 16-inch barrel in a weapon that is only 27 inches long overall. If you have an NFA permit you can actually get it with a 14-inch barrel (which makes it a "short-barreled rifle," of course, under the NFA. That gives you a weapon that maneuvers really well in close quarters.

For really close quarters, these guns handle very well from the hip.

What are the disadvantages of the bullpup design?

There are several traditional objections to the bullpup design. Some of these objections involve apples-and-oranges comparisons. Some involve faulty logic. Still others involve criticizing the bullpup design for not meeting requirements that the bullpup weapon was never designed to meet in the first place; you don't pare an apple with a chain saw, and you don't cut down trees with a paring knife. There is no such thing as a universal weapon; the bullpup is the right weapon for some situations, and the wrong weapon for others. The same can be said for all weapons of every sort.

Careful consideration of the actual differences between comparable weapons, proper design of the weapon, and proper training of the shooter is critical to understanidn the role of the bullpup gun, bearing in mind that in the first place, one chooses the bullpup design because it meets the challenges of certain kinds of tactical situations well. There are other tactical situations in which one would not choose a bullpup design.


In some bullpups, the ejection port is very close to the shooter's face. That bothered some shooters. I personally don't find it to be a problem with the STG, but I could see where some shooters would be affected. In some bullpup designs, the problem is dealt with by having the gun eject the rounds out of the bottom of the gun, or out of the front of the gun, as in the Kel-Tec. In the SAR-21 (Singapore,) the ejection port is located further forward and there is a brass deflector.

Left-hand or ambidextrous operation

It is very odd to see the bullpup design criticized because it does not permit left-handed or ambidextrous operation, when almost all other gun designs suffer from the same fault. Shooting an M16/AR15 left-handed puts brass in your face and there is nothing the shooter can do about it. There are a number of bullpup designs that are fully ambidextrous, and others can be changed with trivial modifications, such as the STG-556, which can switch between right- and left-handed operation by swapping one part.

Trigger pull

The bullpup design requires a long linkage between the trigger and the rest of the trigger and hammer mechanism. That makes it difficult to design a bullpup with a light trigger pull. For example, my STG-556 has a trigger pull of about ten pounds. I find that the heavy weight is not a problem because the pull is short and smooth. If it were a long or rough trigger, the weight would matter a lot more than it does. It's good to remember that the point of a bullpup design is tight quarters, rapid response, maneuverability and so forth, not long-range accuracy.

Magazine change

Some people think that the placement of the magazine in the stock makes it hard to do a rapid magazine change. I don't find that to be a problem; the task of changing the magazine on a bullpup is different from changing the magazine in other kinds of rifles, but not inherently more difficult. A shooter who has the fast change down pat on an AR-15 or an M-14 or an SKS will have to retrain themselves to achieve similar speed on a bullpup, but it's not impossible by any means. Personally, I like the way the mag change works. I like the way I can keep my magazine hand close to my body while doing the change. I particularly like the way I can maintain a really solid hold on the front grip while the weight of the gun stays back against my shoulder and my other hand works the magazine change. The balance of the gun helps keep everything very solidly in place. Of course, not all bullpup guns have vertical front grips, but it is a natural feature for this type of gun and is very often supplied.

Bayonet technique as practiced by Chinese soldiers using the QBZ-95.

Bayonet technique

The point is often made that a bullpup design is a disadvantge in bayonet fighting because it's too short.

I don't follow the logic here. The reason you choose a bullpup is because you want the speed and maneuverability of a short weapon. Having made that decision, why would you then turn around and complain that the weapon is short? Every choice of weapon involves compromises. This is one of them.

However, the difference may not be as significant as is often claimed. The picture above and left (courtesy AP Photo/Mohammed Zaatari) shows Chinese UN peacekeeping troops doing bayonet drill in Lebanon. The rifle is the QBZ-95. By using the full length of the weapon, the soldier is able to achieve considerable reach, even though this weapon appears to have a 16-inch barrel.

In the drawing at the right (courtesy,)  we see how a soldier might grip an M-16 for bayonet combat.

Figure 7-2. No. 1 angle of attack with rifle and fixed bayonet.
Bayonet technique as practiced with the M16.

First, note that the grip shown on an M-16 style weapon places the rear hand well forward on the stock. Even though the weapon is longer overall, the grip position negates much of the length advantage.

Second, note that the M16 pictured is not a carbine-length weapon; it has a barrel significantly longer than the 16-inch carbine barrel. If this rifle had the same barrel length as the bullpup pictured above, the actual reach available to the soldier would be very nearly the same. It's also worth noting that the stock of the M16 might obstruct maneuvers with the rifle by catching on the soldier's hip or leg, while no such problem seems likely with the bullpup.


A moment ago I mentioned how the gun balances in connection with how magazine changes work on the bullpup rifle. Some shooters complain about the balance of bullpup designs, claiming that the weight of the gun is too far back. It is certainly true that the center of gravity of a bullpup gun is quite a bit further toward the rear than other designs, because the weight of the receiver, trigger group, and ammunition is all concentrated in the stock. I find the balance of the bullpup design easier to shoot offhand, precisely because the weight is further back. The front end of the weapon is much easier to support and guide, especially with a vertical front grip.

Robert W. Bethune